Why I Dance: Holly Lynn Fusco

May 31, 2013

Pennsylvania Ballet’s Holly Lynn Fusco began ballet lessons at age 7 in West Bloomfield, MI. As a young dancer, she guested with American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Internationale and attended an array of summer programs, including Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Miami City Ballet School, and Suzanne Farrell’s Cedar Island Program. In 2007 she joined PAB as an apprentice. Since becoming a corps member in 2009, she has danced principal roles in Christopher Wheeldon’s
Swan Lake and After the Rain, Balanchine’s Agon, Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Requiem for a Rose. She was also one of 19 PAB dancers to be cast in the 2010 movie Black Swan.

At left: Rehearsing Wheeldon’s
Swan Lake. Alexander Izilaev, Courtesy PAB.


I am standing in fifth position, arms en bas. Glancing around the stage, I see dancers nervously begin their last-minute fidgeting: tucking their ribbons, smoothing their skirts, and plucking at their already perfected coifs. From behind the looming red curtain facing me, the muted audience chatter, applause, and tapping from the violinists’ bows in the orchestra pit subside as the conductor takes her place. “Curtain’s goin’ up,” our stage manager calls from the front wing. Then, all is silent. Not a voice, a breath, even a thought. The whirring curtain rises, and the crisp theater air breezes through the fly-aways that my hairspray couldn’t tame. The blood surges through my veins; every muscle is taut. I open my eyes wide to focus into the black abyss-like audience in front of me, and I take a deep breath. The conductor’s bow rises, and the violins begin the first phrase of Balanchine’s Square Dance. The joyous Vivaldi music fills my lungs as I inhale, and as I exhale, I start my first tendu. I am thinking about my friend Daniel Cooper behind me, ready to see his infectious smile as we begin to dance together.


Sometimes I wonder, How did I get here? What made me decide? I have my family to thank for immersing me in the lifelong passion that I now call my career. As a youngster, I had far too much energy for my own good, and ballet was the perfect outlet. What began as a portal for my vivaciousness has now become the basis for the creativity and emotional knowledge I have gained over the past 11 years. The daily grind of class and rehearsal, now as essential as water, shapes not only my technique, but also my work ethic and mental strength. There are moments when I feel that my need to dance is like an addiction, the constant evolution of my technique and artistry needing to be fed; working until another drop of sweat squeezing itself out of a pore is unimaginable.


Many of the rewarding moments in my career have arrived through specific roles, working to develop silent, physical interpretations that are open to translation by an audience. Bringing my own capabilities to fruition began with Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Requiem for a Rose, where I was dancing a solo within a five by five illuminated space to the pulse of a heartbeat. Barefoot and with a rose in my mouth, I used minimal arm movements to evoke my loveless character. Next was William Forsythe’s Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, which required stamina, agility, and Forsythe’s quintessential style. In the first half of Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, the intensely intricate partnering launched new chapters for Daniel and me and our trust in each other as dancers. And now we have the chance to work as one of the two main couples in Forsythe’s Artifact Suite. The music (by Bach and Eva Crossman-Hecht) together with the dense, weighted choreography, requiring very specific counterbalancing with our bodies, is creating an even stronger bond between us.


Facing the different tests found within roles is a process solely within myself. No one can force it out of me by harsh or sweet words; it has to flower from the inside out. Knowing this challenges me to my fullest extent, sometimes through unfamiliar territory and past boundaries I created long ago in my head. Being constantly stretched to refine my artistry fortifies my passion for my art form. This is why I dance.